Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Inside the geometrical glass case is a mesmerising miniature world full of lush tropical landscape and colourful exotic plants and animals which owner of local business, Heartileaf, Hashimah Sanusi sculpted.

These miniature gardens are created by adding tiny details inside an aquarium-like structure.

The local business brings the calming beauty of outdoors inside where her clients can enjoy the miniature woodland wonderland or the tropical rain forests in the comfort of their own living room.

Passion turns profession

For her, building a terrarium ecosystem started off as a hobby. 

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Her first creation was growing succulents in a mug. Now, building a terrarium ecosystem is her passion – a passion that she would also want to share with people.

Bringing her imaginative and meticulous eye to all her creations, the self-made entrepreneur has done over 500 succulent arrangements in 2019 alone, each of which she arranged and nurtured on her own.

“During Teacher’s Day last year, we manage to receive 200 bookings. It was good and overwhelming at the same time,” she said, adding that the majority of her sales come from seasonal requests. 

Hashimah did not set out to be a green thumb. Before opening Heartileaf, she worked in a private company.

Her love affair for terrarium started in 2017 when the 30-year-old started decorating her office desk with succulents as a longer-lasting alternative to flowers. 

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“I suddenly found myself with a strong desire to acquire more succulents, that’s when I decided to create my own mini-greenhouse,” she said, adding that the more she creates the more at peace she becomes.

“I wanted to feel connected to nature,” she said. 

Her love for plants came naturally where she spent most of her childhood at her family’s farm surrounded by an abundance of greenery and fruits.

Although she did not have any background about making succulent terrarium Hashimah was willing to learn through the trial and errors.

She follows a lot of DIY gardening channels on Youtube and her Instagram feed is flooded with colourful succulents and cacti, said the young entrepreneur. 

To further upgrade her skills and knowledge, Hashimah also attended some workshops in Kuala Lumpur with her first class at the Malaysian-based company Mossarium, where her inspiration stems from.

Along the way, she developed a strong desire to grow her own collection and test out her green thumb. 

Prior to opening her business, she made an Instagram page dedicated to her journey, sharing photos of her finished products. 

Talking about where she gets the name ‘Heartileaf’, she said that it came from the sentence “heartily for you” and her love for puns. 

“I wanted something very leaf pun and from the heart. It took me a very long time to decide on the name. So for a few months, ‘Heartileaf’ was temporarily named My Secret Garden.bn,”

A room to grow

Whether it is creating a mini Mesozoic-like landscape for dinosaurs or a tranquil Japanese garden complete with tiny Pagoda figurine and an enchanting waterfall, for Hashimah the art of succulent brings happiness; more than just a hobby.

Hashimah has a talent in arranging a stunning self-sustaining ecosystem terrarium. From start to finish, it takes her about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and design.

Heartileaf offers made-to-order terrariums and terrarium kits price starting from $10.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

She added that every project presents its own challenges; something that she loves to tackle and explore.

Building your own terrarium ecosystem however requires a great deal of care, creativity and attention to detail.

“It is easy for me to picture something and be able to amplify it into something beautiful. Each terrarium has a different story to tell, each of them has layers,” she explained passionately.

The self-taught horticulture expert recommends planting the succulents or cacti in a well-draining mixture of organic soil.

“The compost that I use has no chemicals or fertilizers in them,” she added.

She further said that planting succulents must be done carefully, although, they can last a long time with minimal water. Each plant has different water intake and sunlight requirements.

Hashimah not only shares her advice on caring for the succulents she sells, but also educates her customers about the benefits of owning and creating a terrarium.

“Building your own terrarium offers a form of therapy,” she said, believing that by this method people are more relaxed and connected with nature.

Throughout her three-year journey, Hashimah learned so much from just handling the terrarium succulents, creating arrangements to helping customers fixing broken succulent.

Not just building terrariums as a business, she also offers terrarium classes to individuals who are interested to create their own unique displays.

Heartileaf hosts monthly terrarium classes and workshops for people of all ages with a variety of gardening skills and backgrounds.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

For the classes, customers will each get tools and supplies, a transparent container in which plants are grown and displayed.

“I usually tell my students to close their eyes and just use their imagination. It helps them create their own special story,” she said.

Taking a hearty leap of faith

When asked about the best part of the job, she said: “I love watching how excited my students get when they finish their creation. It’s quite a rewarding.”

One of the biggest milestones for the small horticulture business was joining the first-ever Brunei International Flower Show in 2019.

“Heartileaf was one of the event partners for the show where we hosted a two-day workshop and it was a big success,” she said.

Hashimah developed her business with the hope of sharing her love of greenery and creativity with others. For her, Heartileaf is consistently looking and researching for new ideas to expand the business.

With Heartileaf as her full-time job, the local gardener is planning to open a brick-and-mortar store where she could display different types of terrarium arrangements for customers to see up-close and pick directly.

This article was first published on February 23, 2020 in our National Day Supplement

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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